Foods Athletes Should Not Be Eating

Top athletes wouldn't dare devour these diet disasters and neither should you...

Top-performing athletes know that nutrition is king when it comes to gaining an edge over their competitors. You can work out as hard as you want, practice every day, and get 8-9 hours of sleep but if your nutrition is not on point you’ll never carve out your six-pack or increase your stamina.

No matter how cliche it might seem, the age-old saying that muscles are made in the kitchen remains true and that’s the case no matter what your goal is: your success is dependent on what you put on your plate and into your mouth.

An athlete’s diet is more than just calories in and calories out—it’s fuel. The right foods increase your energy, promote muscle growth, and aid in muscle repair. While something may be low in calories, that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. You need to focus on nutrient-dense foods—that is, options that are chockfull of vitamins and minerals that’ll keep your body in tip-top shape.

The wrong foods set you back. We’re not saying that you shouldn’t indulge every now and then — we’ve preached the benefits of cheat days for years and still fully believe in them. If you’re looking to come into a competition—whether that be a pickup basketball match of a men’s physique contest—however, you should pay close attention to the nutrition labels of everything you’re putting into your body.

When it comes to chowing down, there are certain eats a serious athlete just won’t touch. Unfortunately for those athletes, it’s much easier to find the wrong foods in grocery stores than the right ones. Here are 20 commonly found food items you should leave out of your cart.

Diet Soda

Athletes see each meal as an opportunity to refuel—How much protein can I fit into this meal? How can I add more good fats? —because it’s what drives their performance. Nutritionally void foods like artificial sweeteners have no place in their diet. Not only do they offer no health benefits, but consuming artificially sweetened foods like a can of diet soda per day could significantly increase your risk for health problems and weight gain, says a study out of Purdue University.

Artificial sweeteners trick the body into thinking it’s consuming real food, and because they’re over a hundred times sweeter than the real thing, your body starts producing insulin (the fat storage hormone). You’re better off consuming the real stuff in moderation.

Sugary Cereal

Artificial sugar is a definite no, but chowing down on too much of the real thing is just as bad. While active guys can afford to take in more calories than the average man, it doesn’t mean they’re scarfing down sugary foods on the daily.

No athlete gets to the top of his game, and stays there, by starting his day off with a big bowl of oat cereal and marshmallows. Too much sugar also causes a spike in insulin, priming your body to store more fat.

White Bread

"White pastas, rice, and breads are OK, [but not ideal] because they are stripped of their nutrients and fiber.”
says Jim White.

Refined white flour is made from stripping the fiber, wheat germ, and essential B vitamins from the wheat kernel—what’s left is a highly processed food product, and when consumed, raises insulin levels and contributes to dips in energy and weight gain.

Stick to whole-grain products; those made of white flour are not going to give you lasting energy.

Microwave Popcorn

Whether from the concession stand or popped in the microwave, this movie staple has got no place in a fit man’s diet. Saturated with unhealthy fats, unearthly levels of sodium, and in some cases, laced with chemicals, popcorn does not fuel an athlete’s body for a strenuous training session, nor does it encourage recovery after a long workout.

Microwave popcorn bags are also lined with something called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical which is also found in Teflon pots and pans—yikes.

There is a flip side, if you air pop the corn or pop it on the stove with a small amount of coconut oil, it turns into somewhat of a superfood, boasting high levels of antioxidants and a hearty dose of satiating fiber.


Before you roll your eyes, listen up. Granola might seem healthy, with fibrous oats as the base, but it’s not exactly all it’s cracked up to be. Most versions of the cereal come stacked with high amounts of sugar, unnecessary fat, and an excess amount of calories.

Does anyone ever stop at the ¼ cup serving? While highly active guys need the calories and fiber, the downsides of granola outweigh the benefits. A bowl of oats with a giant scoop of nut butter is a much better alternative.v


Maintaining a superior level of fitness comes down to consuming everything in moderation—especially alcohol. What serious athlete do you know shotguns beers or throws back shots on a regular basis?

Alcohol inhibits your physical fitness in a number of ways. Too much booze slows muscle recovery, impairs motor skills, and decreases strength and sprint performance. It’s also a diuretic, so it dehydrates you.

Research published in ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal also found alcohol depresses the immune system and slows the body’s ability to heal, which could increase your risk of illness and injury.

Sports Drinks

Unless you’re doing a really long, rigorous workout, chugging a sports drinks really isn’t necessary. Electrolyte-enhanced beverages usually contain up to up to 34 grams of sugar, so an athlete is better off drinking water and refueling with other foods and beverages. (Coconut water and tart cherry juice have been hailed as miracle workout elixirs.) Research backs it up, too.

A study published in the journal Obesity found that people who consume one or more sports drinks every day gained more weight over a three-year span than those who don’t.

Nutrition Bars

The problem with most bars—be it snack, protein, or energy—is all the added sugars and fats. Obviously protein bars are calorie-dense to help you gain muscle, but if you’re chowing down on ‘em after a light workout, or eating them even if you haven’t worked out, it can easily pack on the pounds. Likewise, nutrition and snack bars tend to be saturated fat and sugar bombs with add-ins like nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate.

You want to opt for bars with minimal, pronounceable ingredients.

Flavored Yogurt

Flavored yogurt cups are portable and tasty, but they host an avalanche of sugar—especially ones with fruit at the bottom or granola add-ins.

This will prevent you from achieving a lean, shredded physique and spike your blood sugar, upping your odds of binging on food and experiencing an energy crash. Greek yogurt is a far better breakfast for serious fitness and health enthusiasts because it’s protein-packed and, if you go with plain, relatively low in sugar.

Fruit Juice

Fruit juice is deceiving. It’s got fruit, and you know that has essential vitamins and minerals, but it also has a boatload of sugar. What’s more, it lacks the component in fruit—the skin and fibrous flesh—that holds majority of its nutrition. And since you’re not chewing, the sugar (most of which is fructose) is sent to the liver very quickly—which can be lodge and stored there as fat.

Unsweetend cherry or grape juice, on the other hand, can help you recover after a difficult workout by keeping your blood flowing properly, boosting your cardiovascular health, and filling your body with antioxidants.

Flavored Oatmeal Packets

Though convenient, flavored instant oatmeal doesn’t do your morning or health any justice. Instant oats are steamed, flattened, pre-cooked, cut into tiny pieces, and dehydrated, whereas whole, rolled oats are just steamed and flattened, and nutritionally speaking they’re similar in calories, protein, carbs, and sugar—it’s the flavored packets that really get you.

They’re hiding a lot of salt and sugar, so opt for plain instant oatmeal and flavor it with cinnamon and fruits like cherries, strawberries, or blueberries, or prepare steel-cut oats the night before with chia seeds, almond milk, fruit, and store in the fridge overnight.

Packed Deli Meat

If you’re making lunch from home, kudos to you, you’re saving money and calories. But not if you’re go-to is a hoagie crammed with provolone, pepper jack, ham, salami, turkey, and any other number of add-ons like bacon and condiments.

Packaged deli meats are hiding tons of added salt and nitrates, which are used to preserve their freshness and color. Aside from calories, you’re upping your odds for heart disease and cancer. A smarter choice: Buy rotisserie chicken, or cook up chicken and turkey breasts that have lean protein.

Trail Mix

You’ll run into a lot of problems with snacks hailed as “healthy”–they’re not really healthy. Trail mix may be an easy snack to keep in your car, at the office, or with you on hikes, but that fiber-filled snack you think you’re having is really just a giant tub of candy. Do coconut shavings, M&Ms, candied fruit, and yogurt- or chocolate-covered nuts seem like fuel fit for an athlete? Sorry, but neither do we.

Skip the store-bought stuff and make your own muscle-building mix with seeds, nuts, and some raisins.

What do you think about this ? Feel free to comment here or head over to the TeamTNA forum to post a new thread.

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November 25, 2020

I eat microwave popcorn but not name brand. Its my own in a fabric bag

November 26, 2020

Thanks very much for the comment,

Just to clarify, i am talking about the prepackaged flavored popcorn bags. PLAIN popcorn is fine to eat out of the microwave. “Air popped” popcorn is also fine.

November 27, 2020

air pop corn saves my life :-p

December 9, 2020

I buy protein bars but i know mine are good for me cuz they taste like dirt.

December 13, 2020

LMAO ! Thats usually the indicator of good (good for you) brand.

December 12, 2020

OMG i thought trail mix wax good

December 14, 2020

Im older now and I only drink on weekends

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